Work based learning

Facilitating Leadership through Action Learning

the case of the cultural and creative industries

by Mike Pedlar

This paper describes an innovative approach to leadership development whereby the Leadership Facilitation Skills (LFS) programme helped participants to develop their skills in leadership through learning to facilitate action learning sets. 

LFS was created as a result of feedback from earlier CLP initiatives which had indicated that network meetings and action learning were seen as particularly valuable approaches to leadership development, and between 2008 -2010, more than 130 industry leaders participated in four cohorts of the programme. It was found that many participants said they did not really know what leadership was, or had not seen it as applying to them, but the LFS approach allowed these people who had previously thought of themselves as ‘managers’ or ‘freelancers’, to recognise and acknowledge themselves as leaders, often for the first time.

The brief was to design and deliver a programme in “facilitation skills, particularly in regard to action learning, for leaders across the sectors” of the creative and cultural industries.  LFS was based on a ‘Facilitative Leadership’ model, an approach suited to organisations that operate in complex environments, which are subject to unpredictable change.   Facilitative Leadership “teaches you to facilitate your peers as they tackle complex organisational challenges” and involves learning a particular set of skills including: attending, listening, questioning, reflecting, learning and giving fewer solutions.

This paper begins with a background briefing on of how leadership is understood in the UK’s creative and cultural industries, and then details case studies and learnings from the cohorts, based on evaluations of the programme undertaken between 2008 and 2010.  Overall the essay findings are placed in the context of wider ideas about leadership and leadership development, and the paper concludes that the Facilitative Leadership approach (as delivered by the LFS) is an important innovation, especially in the context of the complexities and diversities of the creative economy. In combining action learning with facilitation in the resolution of participants’ leadership challenges, and also in the development of their personal leadership practices, the LFS emerged as a strikingly original approach to leadership development which helped participants to use action learning skills to become more effective leaders.

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